Kid's scifi with nothing but potato salad?
July 20, 2009 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a book from my boyfriend's childhood. What he remembers: kids controlling a spaceship who can't get the food replicator to make anything other than potato salad.

Other notes that might help:

1) Boyfriend grew up abroad (in Africa), so while English language, this could be English, Australian, Canadian, or American.
2) This was definitely science fiction.
3) He would have been the right age to read this in the early 1980s.

I've tried asking this on abebooks (under BookSleuth) and through children's librarian friends luck. He's having a really hard time of it of late, so I hoped to find this and maybe cheer him up a bit.

Thank you for any ideas.
posted by eleanna to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure it only made potato salad? The food replicator in Hitchhiker's Guide also gets stuck and makes something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
posted by JimmyJames at 2:55 PM on July 20, 2009

I recall there being food replicator issues in one of the My Teacher is an Alien books, but the first one was published in 1989.
posted by djb at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2009

It's not HHGTTG (though that's a favorite for both of us). I'm not sure, but potato salad seems to be the salient memory for him, so I presume it's in there somewhere. I'll check the 'My Teacher is an Alien' books. Thank you! Any other ideas also welcome.
posted by eleanna at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2009

Maybe it was one of the New Adventures of Johnny Quest books? There were dozens of those when I was a kid (~20 years ago) and I do remember them flying spaceships while in their teens. Sadly I don't specifically recall anything about potato salad, though.

I'm sorry that I can't help with this one, but I absolutely love the fact that you made sure to stress that this book about kids controlling a spaceship was definitely science fiction.
posted by GatorDavid at 3:41 PM on July 20, 2009

Sounds like it might be the first book of Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant series. Definitely NOT for kids, but I read it when I was one (a kid - in the early 80s)..
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:06 PM on July 20, 2009

The first thing I thought of was in fact one of Bruce Coville's books (The Search for Snout) but as I recall the food in question was peanut butter. You could try his other series, the My Teacher is an Alien books, which was mentioned, although I don't think anyone goes into outer space until the third book, and that was published in 1991. Hope you find it, though. (Seems food replication trouble is a common sci-fi trope.)
posted by Busoni at 4:54 PM on July 20, 2009

Does he remember anything else from the book? Names of the kids? Other characters? Why they were on the spaceship? Where they were going? What the cover of the book looked like? How long it was?
posted by dogwelder at 5:17 PM on July 20, 2009

Space Hostages by Nicholas Fisk has something about kids in a spaceship with a dodgy kitchen unit, but I don't remember whether it was potato salad or cornflakes.
posted by scruss at 6:43 PM on July 20, 2009

Maybe one of the Danny Dunn books?
posted by bink at 9:06 PM on July 20, 2009

Thank you for all of the good leads and ideas. Some sound very promising and I'm certainly a lot further along than I was when I started, so I appreciate it.

@GatorDavid: Yeah...this is one of those 'it made sense in my head' things:)

@dogwelder: I'll ask him tonight and post tomorrow if anything else gets added.

@bink: So many memories of great childhood books being raised...I loved the Danny Dunn books as a kid.
posted by eleanna at 10:27 PM on July 20, 2009

I agree with scruss; I think it's Space Hostages by Nicholas Fisk.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:40 PM on July 20, 2009

Space Hostages turns out to be the right book--even though it is egg salad, not potato salad (ah, childhood memories). Thank you all very much for your help and I am so glad that you were able to help me find this for him.
posted by eleanna at 11:28 AM on July 31, 2009

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